Taliban Attack Karachi Airport; India’s President Mukherjee Addresses Parliament; Flash Floods in Afghanistan
Pakistan Taliban attack Karachi airport Ten gunmen infiltrated Jinnah International Airport, Pakistan’s largest and busiest airport, in Karachi and waged an hours-long assault late Sunday night into Monday morning that killed 13 people and all 10 of the attackers (NYT, ET, CNN). The gunmen made it past security checkpoints near the airport’s cargo and private ...
Taliban attack Karachi airport
Ten gunmen infiltrated Jinnah International Airport, Pakistan’s largest and busiest airport, in Karachi and waged an hours-long assault late Sunday night into Monday morning that killed 13 people and all 10 of the attackers (NYT, ET, CNN). The gunmen made it past security checkpoints near the airport’s cargo and private flights terminal, reportedly by wearing airport security garb, then engaged in an extended firefight with police in two different sections of the airport (Post). At least some of the attackers were wearing explosive vests, which they detonated when approached by police. Passengers were shuttled to a different terminal or stranded on planes on the tarmac until police killed all of the militants and secured the airport just after dawn on Monday morning. Bonus read: "Will Karachi Become the Next Waziristan?" Michael Kugelman (SouthAsia).
A Pakistani Taliban spokesman, Shahhidullah Shahid, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was in retaliation for the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud, the Taliban chief who died in a drone strike last November (Post, Dawn, WSJ). Shahid also said the attack on the Karachi airport was planned before the peace talks with the Pakistani government, which began in February and floundered in recent weeks, but was delayed during the negotiations. He warned of more attacks to come.
Suicide bombing in Baluchistan
At least 23 people are dead after four terrorists detonated explosives and gunned down Shia pilgrims from Iran at hotels in the town of Tafton on Monday (Dawn, ET, BBC, AJE). About 210 people who were returning from a pilgrimage were staying at two hotels when one terrorist detonated his suicide vest and the other attackers fired indiscriminately on hotel guests until they were engaged by Frontier Corps personnel in a gun battle and then killed. The terrorist group Jaishul Islam claimed responsibility for the attack, according to their spokesman, Azam Tariq, who called media outlets from an undisclosed location.
President Mukherjee addresses joint session of parliament
President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday addressed India’s joint session in the Central Hall of Parliament, where he listed the policies and priorities of the newly elected government led by Prime Minister Narendra (Economic Times, DNA, Rediff, Hindustan Times). The president said the recent national election, which saw the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win a landslide victory, was an "election of hope" and that serving the citizens of India would be the first priority of the Modi-led government.
Mukherjee clearly stated that the government is dedicated to eliminating poverty. "We will not settle for only poverty alleviation, we are aiming for poverty elimination," Mukherjee said. The president said women are part of the nation’s growth, and the government will have "zero tolerance" for violence against women. On the economic front, Mukherjee said the government will create a policy environment that is "predictable, transparent and fair." He said further that controlling inflation, particularly in food commodities, creating jobs, reviving investments, and simplifying tax laws will be among the top priorities of the Modi government to revive "Brand India."
Under the Indian Constitution, the president addresses the first joint session of Parliament after general elections, and sets the political, economic and foreign policy roadmap of the newly elected government. To read a full transcript of Mukherjee’s address, click here.
China’s foreign minister treks to India, meets Swaraj, Modi
Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, met his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj, the external affairs minister, on Sunday in New Delhi where they broached all issues of "perennial" interest and concern to both countries (Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Financial Express). On his two-day visit to India as President Xi Jinping’s special envoy to engage the new Indian government, Wang said his visit was to "cement our existing friendship and explore further cooperation." Wang was "effusive in his praise" for the new Indian government, and said it had "injected new vitality into an ancient civilization." The Chinese foreign minister will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday.
The talks between Wang and Swaraj, which lasted over three hours, also addressed contentious border issues and economic growth opportunities. Syed Akbaruddin, foreign ministry spokesman, described the meeting as "cordial, useful, productive and substantive," and said: "Even while there was a determination to add new substance
to relations, there was an understanding that respect for sensitivities and aspirations of each other was essential for an expansion of bilateral relations."
While both foreign ministers interacted for the first time since Modi won the national elections last month, hundreds of Tibetans gathered in New Delhi to protest Wang‘s visit on Sunday (Indian Express, Hindustan Times). Citing human right violations, the demonstrators carried placards, shouted slogans, and urged Modi to raise the Tibet issue with China. "The crisis in Tibet over the past few years has only worsened, which is why Tibetans and Tibet activists around the world are intensifying efforts to urge countries such as India to build pressure on China to end the severe repression in Tibet," a statement issued by Students For a Free Tibet said.
Students swept away as dam releases water
On an excursion trip to Himachal Pradesh on Sunday, 24 engineering students and one professor from Hyderabad city were washed away in swirling waters by the Beas river after a hydropower plant allegedly discharged water into the river without any warning (BBC, Livemint, Hindustan Times). While five bodies have been found, rescue operations are still looking for the remaining 20 people.
Students from the VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Hyderabad, were on the Beas riverbank in the Kullu valley taking photographs when the water level rose after discharge from a reservoir of the 126 megawatt Larji hydropower project. Angry residents and tourists blocked the national highway after the incident, and accused the hydropower project authority of releasing the water without warning.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has ordered a magisterial inquiry to determine whether adequate warnings had been issued and whether the students ignored the warnings.
— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Flash floods devastate Baghlan province
Flash floods caused by heavy rain killed at least 70 people in Baghlan province in northern Afghanistan over the weekend (NYT). At least 2,000 homes were destroyed, roads and bridges were washed away, and about 200 people are still missing across four villages in the province. Although Afghanistan’s defense ministry deployed two army helicopters to provide assistance, there is not enough dry land anywhere for the helicopters to land, according to Aminullah Amarkhel, Baghlan’s provincial police chief (BBC). The Afghanistan Natural Disaster Management Authority says it has stockpiles of food and other supplies in the province and has begun transporting them to the affected area, but Guzargah-e-Nur police chief Fazel Rahman Rahman told the Associated Press that: "So far no one has come to help us. People are trying to find their missing family members."
Kerry warns newly-freed Taliban leaders
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a warning for the five Taliban leaders who were released from the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who was a Taliban captive for five years, saying that the former prisoners could be killed if they involve themselves in fighting again (CNN). "I’m not telling you that they don’t have some ability at some point to go back and get involved (in fighting). But they also have an ability to get killed doing that," Kerry told CNN in his first public comments on the controversial prisoner exchange. He defended the prisoner swap and said that the Taliban leaders will be monitored closely, and not just by officials in Qatar where they are living, though Kerry failed to state who else would be watching them. He also dismissed the claim that Americans are now more at risk of being kidnapped by terrorist groups who think they can negotiate with the U.S. government as "baloney."
Bergdahl is currently being treated at a U.S. military hospital in Germany and has not yet been in contact with his family. Bergdahl told doctors treating him that he was tortured during his captivity and was, at one point, thrown into a metal cage after a failed escape attempt (AP).
— Emily Schneider
Edited by Peter Bergen
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